It seems like the hourly rate is the thing to do for a lot of attorneys. I’m not sure where this idea really came from. I’m guessing it’s because attorneys are afraid that handling a case will take longer than first anticipated. If they quote a flat-fee, then they would be obliged to handle the case, even if more work was involved.
Their uncertainty about the amount of work needed for a case is a result of not knowing and understanding the client’s needs and the work involved. In many cases involving transactions with attorneys and law firms, flat fees just make a lot of sense. I am surprised that not a lot of attorneys are embracing this model. At least not yet. We have. Here’s why…
There are problems posed by hourly rates.
The problem with hourly rates is that people don’t like price uncertainty. They want to know what it is going to cost and that’s it. It’s worth it to pay a little bit more in the end for the comfort of knowing in the beginning that the bill isn’t going to go any higher than what is first quoted, even if something unexpected pops up. Therefore, when we’re doing estate planning or care assistance planning, once we sit down with our clients, we go through exactly what we need to do. So we can tell them, then and there, what it will cost. Our clients are much happier with this arrangement.
Another problem with the hourly rate is that people tend not to ask questions because they know that the attorney is on the clock and they are worried about adding to their bill. We’ve experienced this in the past where some of our clients got a good plan to suit their needs, but they left their previous estate planner’s office feeling uncomfortable because they had unanswered questions. They didn’t take the time to ask them because they didn’t want to pay more.
We encourage – and plan for – questions… lots of them.
Our process for estate planning and care assistance planning is designed to encourage communication with our clients. We have the meetings mapped out so there’s always the opportunity to ask questions. We take the time – all the time needed – to do what we have to do to make sure our clients’ questions and concerns are addressed. If it involves additional meetings or changes to the documents, it’s fine. It’s not going to add to the bill.
With the exception being probate, most of our case fees are set. To make our first meeting mutually productive, we have our clients fill out a questionnaire and read a short book on estate planning before meeting with us. We then sit down and go through the process. Once we figure out what we need to do, we can let the client know exactly how much it’s going to be, and that’s it.
I hope this brief but clear explanation will help you understand our preference and philosophy behind flat rate fees. If, however, you have any questions on our fee structure or any other estate planning issues, please give us a call: (919) 844-7993. We have friendly and caring staff that is happy to help you.